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How can I change the product ID in Win 2000 without being fined by Microsoft?

I'm a network administrator at a local CPA firm in Memphis, TN. Recently I had to do a repair on a Windows 2000 IBM Thinkpad. When purchasing an IBM Thinkpad it does not come with an operating system CD; it only comes with a recovery CD. Unfortunately; the recovery CD does not allow you the option to repair the OS. In order to keep from re-writing the entire hard drive with a fresh install I used another Windows 2000 CD to repair the OS. Upon doing a repair I had to enter the serial number of the Windows 2000 CD I used to repair the OS. I don't want to take the chance of being fined a fee for using an illegal license if the company is ever audited. I searched Microsoft KnowledgeBase, Google and other IT forums to see how to change the product ID in Windows 2000, but I was unsuccessful. I could only find out how to change the Product ID in Windows XP. Is there a way to change it in a Windows 2000 environment?

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Yes. You can do this legally by using the SYSPREP utility, which (among other things) removes the SID and allows a new one to be manually specified through a script. You can get SYSPREP for Windows 2000 here -- http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/tools/sysprep/default.asp -- and Microsoft also has full documentation on how to use SYSPREP here: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/using/itpro/deploying/introduction.asp.

As a future preventative measure against disaster, one thing you can do rather than rely on the manufacturer's restore CD is to use Symantec Ghost, Boot-It Next Generation or another partition-imaging program to create an offline image of the hard drive (with the proper product key), which can then be restored in the future if things go south on you again. I have dealt with enough system-restore disks to know that they are often terribly inflexible, so don't rely on them if you can help it. Creating a system image and using it to restore the same system is not a violation of Microsoft's licensing agreements.

This was first published in August 2004

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